mailing list archives
Re: Popular Net anonymity service back-doored
From: MightyE <trash () mightye org>
Date: Thu, 21 Aug 2003 12:37:15 -0400
Do you suppose that the JAP operators were under a court order to not
disclose that they were logging these attempts? The text you quoted
from the application simply screams LOOK AT ME, and may have been a
deliberate attempt to get someone to notice. They may have been ordered
to install the back door, not tell anyone about it, and not tell anyone
that they weren't allowed to talk about it. Once it was public
knowledge, however, they may have been able to discuss that there was
indeed a court order to this effect, but still perhaps forbidden from
discussing the limitations on talking about it. I'm not sure what
German law is, but it's also further possible that they were ordered to
bring the service back up with the back door in place, removing any
capacity for them to behave in the manner that you state they should have.
People who hold ideals like the JAP operators, and stick their necks out
for those ideals by doing things like offering anonymizing services
don't strike me as the sort of people who are given to compromise these
ideals given that they have any option on the matter. JAP operators are
not interested in sheltering criminals, and thus are not likely
interested in BEING criminals themselves when faced with a court order
requiring them to do something against their ideals.
Thomas C. Greene wrote:
Popular Net anonymity service back-doored
Fed-up Feds get court order
The popular Java Anonymous Proxy (JAP), used to anonymise one's comings and
goings across the Internet, has been back-doored by court order. The service
is currently logging access attempts to a particular, and unnamed, Web site
and reporting the IP addys of those who attempt to contact it to the German
We know this because the JAP operators immediately warned users that their IP
traffic might be going straight to Big Brother, right? Wrong. After taking
the service down for a few days with the explanation that the interruption
was "due to a hardware failure", the operators then required users to install
an "upgraded version" (ie. a back-doored version) of the app to continue
using the service.
"As soon as our service works again, an obligatory update (version 00.02.001)
[will be] needed by all users," the public was told. Not a word about Feds or
Fortunately, a nosey troublemaker had a look at the 'upgrade' and noticed some
unusual business in it, such as:
"CAMsg::printMsg(LOG_INFO,"Loading Crime Detection Data....\n");"
"CAMsg::printMsg(LOG_CRIT,"Crime detected - ID: %u - Content:
and posted it to alt.2600.
Soon the JAP team replied to the thread, admitting that there is now a "crime
detection function" in the system mandated by the courts. But they defended
"What was the alternative? Shutting down the service? The security
apparatchiks would have appreciated that - anonymity in the Internet and
especially AN.ON are a thorn in their side anyway."
Sorry, the Feds undoubtedly appreciated the JAP team's willingness to
back-door the app while saying nothing about it a lot more than they would
have appreciated seeing the service shut down with a warning that JAP can no
longer fulfill its stated obligation to protect anonymity due to police
Admittedly, the JAP team makes some good points in its apology. For one, they
say they're fighting the court order but that they must comply with it until
a decision is reached on their appeal.
Jap is a collaborative effort of Dresden University of Technology, Free
University Berlin and the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection
Schleswig-Holstein, Germany (ICPP). A press release from ICPP assures users
that JAP is safe to use because access to only one Web site is currently
being disclosed, and only under court-ordered monitoring.
But that's not the point. Disclosure is the point. The JAP Web site still
claims that anonymity is sacrosanct: "No one, not anyone from outside, not
any of the other users, not even the provider of the intermediary service can
determine which connection belongs to which user."
This is obviously no longer true, if it ever was. And that's a serious
problem, that element of doubt. Anonymity services can flourish only if users
trust providers to be straight with them at all times. This in turn means
that providers must be absolutely punctilious and obsessive about disclosing
every exception to their assurances of anonymity. One doesn't build
confidence by letting the Feds plug in to the network, legally or otherwise,
and saying nothing about it.
Justifying it after the fact, as the JAP team did, simply isn't good enough.
Telling us that they only did it to help catch criminals isn't good enough
either. Sure, no normal person is against catching criminals - the more the
merrier, I say. But what's criminal is highly relative, always subject to
popular perception and state doctrine. If we accept Germany's definition of
criminal activity that trumps the natural right to anonymity and privacy,
then we must accept North Korea's, China's and Saudi Arabia's. They have laws
too, after all. The entire purpose of anonymity services is to sidestep state
regulation of what's said and what's read on the basis of natural law.
The JAP Web site has a motto: "Anonymity is not a crime." It's a fine one,
even a profound one. But it's also a palpably political one. The JAP project
inserted itself, uncalled, into the turbulent confluence between natural law
and state regulation, and signaled its allegiance to the former. It's tragic
to see it bowing to the latter. ®